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Off-the-shelf personal devices for heating (left) and cooling (right) used during a usability study.


My Ph.D. thesis aimed to challenge existing approaches to studying thermal comfort by addressing the question of individual thermal comfort through the design of wearable and portable personal thermal devices. Research through design thereby allowed to reframe the problem space towards desirable states of reality by producing prototypes, which serve as vehicles to initiate discussion and challenge existing ideas, and whose evaluation allows to discover effects and bring general theories to a specific problem space, group and context.  

The main research questions were:

  • How do occupants achieve thermal comfort through adaptation and use of personal thermal devices in context?
  • How does their use of personal thermal devices impact perceived individual comfort, satisfaction, and perceived control in open-plan office environments?
  • How do wearable or portable personal devices for thermal comfort have to be designed to support perceived thermal comfort, control and use in context?

In the scope of a first user study personal, off-the-shelf devices for heating and cooling were tested and evaluated in open-plan work environments. The aim of the studies was to uncover the aspects affecting the use, usability, application and design of wearable, portable solutions for personal thermal comfort in relation to the context of use through the deployment of existing devices into the wild. Retrieving the lived experience of the users using the devices and achieving thermal comfort in their everyday setting lead to the formulation of design requirements and recommendations for the subsequent development of low fidelity prototypes and contributed to the selection of focus areas for further research and subsequent user studies .

The studies featured an exploratory, inductive RtD approach incorporating mixed methods both from HCI and thermal comfort research.



Knecht, K.G. (2019). Micro-Atmospheres: Investigating Portable and Wearable Solutions to Support Individual Thermal Comfort in Open-Plan Offices. Ph.D. Thesis. Queen Mary, University of London. thesis

Knecht, K., Shoop, K. & Bryan-Kinns, N. (2016). Usability and Design of Personal Wearable and Portable Devices for Thermal Comfort in Shared Work Environments. Proceedings of the 30th International BCS Human Computer Interaction Conference. Bournemouth, UK. paper 

Knecht, K. (2015). Micro-Atmospheres: Exploring Portable and Wearable Solutions to Support Individual Comfort. 17th International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services. Copenhagen, Denmark. paper

Knecht, K., Bryan-Kinns, N., & Shoop, K. (2015). Assessing Comfort in Open-Plan Offices on Campus – Which Comfort Parameters Matter? Poster presented at 11th Biennial Conference on Environmental Psychology (BCEP). Groningen, Netherlands. poster 


PHD THESIS | Doctoral Training Centre in Media and Arts Technology (EP/G03723X/1) | Queen Mary, University of London | Supervisors: Dr. Nick Bryan-Kinns, Dr. Karen Shoop